The September 11th Sourcebooks

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 55
Edited by Jeffrey Richelson and Michael L. Evans
September 21, 2001
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The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the abortive attack (possibly aimed at the White House or Camp David) that resulted in the crash of a jetliner in Pennsylvania has resulted in a new and extraordinary emphasis by the Bush administration on combating terrorism. During the last ten days key administration officials, particularly President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of State Colin Powell, have repeatedly emphasized that their long-term objective is the destruction of terrorism – a goal to be achieved by the death or apprehension of terrorists, the destruction of their infrastructure and support base, and retaliation against states that aid or harbor terrorists.

    Terrorism, however, was hardly ignored in previous administrations. In fact, at the beginning of the Reagan administration, Secretary of State Alexander Haig announced that opposition to terrorism would replace the Carter administration’s focus on advancing human rights throughout the world. Although opposition to terrorism never really became the primary focus of the Reagan administration or successor administrations, each of these paid signifiacnt attention to the issue and produced many important documents that shed light on the policy choices faced today. Terrorism has been the subject of numerous presidential and Defense Department directives as well as executive orders. Terrorist groups and terrorist acts have been the focus of reports by both executive branch agencies (for example, the State Department, CIA, and FBI) as well as Congressional bodies – including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Congressional Research Service. The General Accounting Office has also produced several dozen reports evaluating the U.S. government’s ability to prevent or mitigate terrorist strikes, including, one just yesterday, September 20, 2001.

    The following documents, some of which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, include assessments of the terrorist threat and a CIA profile of Usama bin Ladin, presidential and Defense Department policy directives, the details about U.S. response to specific terrorist attacks, and evaluations of U.S. government preparedness to deal with terrorism.

I. Terrorism and Usama bin Ladin
II. Congressional Research Service reports
III. General Accounting Office reports
IV. Department of Defense Directives, Instructions and statements
V. Presidential Directives and Executive Orders

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I. Terrorism and Usama bin Ladin

Document 1
CIA, Usama bin Ladin: Islamic Extremist Financier, 1996.
This CIA assessment, released to the media in 1996, provides background information on bin Ladin, including his involvement in the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and how he became a prominent figure in supporting the resistance. It also provides information on the nature of his terrorist activities – including the Islamic Salvation Foundation (Al-Qaida), collaboration with other extremist groups.

    In addition, the profile traces bin Ladin’s commercial activities since 1989, such as his construction company’s role in the building of a modern international airport near Port Sudan, as well as support to a number of terrorist endeavors. It reports that by January 1994 bin Ladin was helping finance three terrorist training camps in the northern Sudan.

Document 2
CIA Biography, Mohammad OMAR, December 21, 1998.
Released to the media in 1998, this CIA document provides information on the birth, education, and professional career of the present leader of the Taliban, which included time as a subcommander of a faction of the Afghan resistance. 
Document 3
Department of Defense, DoD USS Cole Commission Report, Executive Summary, January 9, 2001.
Among the terrorist attacks linked to Usama bin Ladin is the October 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole, a destroyer, while it was in the port of Aden, Yemen. A small dinghy carrying explosives rammed the Cole, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. The DoD commission established to investigate the incident issued findings concerning organization, antiterrorism/force protection, intelligence, logistics, and training as well as a number of recommendations to help prevent a future attack.
Document 4
Memorandum for the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Subject:Review of USS COLE (DDG-67) Attack Reports and Suggestions for Additional Recommended Actions, January 9, 2001.
This memorandum from Secretary of Defense William Cohen was sent to General Henry  Shelton, the Chairman of the JCS, along with the full report of the DoD USS COLE Commission. The memorandum reviews force protection measures and initiatives taken in recent years, noting creation of a Joint Staff component to focus on force protection and counter-terrorism issues. In addition, Cohen asks for Shelton’s recommendations concerning implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
Document 5
U.S. Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism, April 2001. 
For over a decade the Department of State, with assistance from the CIA, has been publishing a yearly volume detailing international terrorist activity in during the previous year.

    Excerpts from the most recent volume include the sections on the year in review, the Middle East and state-sponsored terrorism. Subsections of the Middle East section dealing with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia also discuss the activities of Usama bin Ladin.

Document 6
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Terrorism in the United States 1998, 1999.
This unclassified report, prepared by the FBI’s Counterterrorism Threat Assessment and Warning Unit covers a variety of topics. It discusses the guidelines under which the FBI investigates terrorism in the United States – a topic that has already become the subject of debate in the aftermath of the September 11 attack.

    It also reviews both terrorist incidents, the investigation of incidents, and incidents prevented during 1998. It notes that after the August 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, the FBI “quickly focused investigative attention on terrorist financier Usama bin Ladin and his terrorist network Al-qaida.” “Significant events” include indictments, trials, convictions as well as the creation of plans to establish a National Domestic Preparedness Office.

    The first part of the “In-Focus” section discusses the threat from WMD (weapons of mass  destruction) – which had been the preeminent fear before the events of September 11. That section also discusses the investigation of the embassy bombings as well as the challenge of protecting “critical national infrastructures” and military installations.

Document 7
Press Release, Sen. Arlen Specter, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Finds Khobar Towers Bombing “Not the Result of an Intelligence Failure,” September 12, 1996 w/att: Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report.
On June 25, 1996, a truck bomb exploded outside the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. military personnel and wounding 515 people, including 240 U.S. personnel. The Senate intelligence committee and its staff examined whether the attack’s success was due to an intelligence failure. It examined a number of issues, including collection, analysis, the production of vulnerability assessments, and dissemination. Its primary conclusion was that “The Khobar Towers tragedy was not the result of an intelligence failure.”

II. Congressional Research Service reports

Document 1
Raphael Perl, Terrorism, the Future, and U.S. Foreign Policy, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, September 2001).
Released only two days after the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, this CRS report reviews recent terrorist acts and threats and considers a range of U.S. policy options – including diplomacy, economic sanctions, covert action, monetary rewards, extradition and the use of military force.  The paper notes that recent events will force policymakers to reconcile the sometimes conflicting goals of security and civil liberties.

    The report also suggests a number of potential policy tools and reform measures that might be implemented, questioning whether the current counterterrorism policymaking process – channeled largely through the National Security Council – is subject to appropriate congressional oversight, and also whether it places too much emphasis on state-sponsored actions at the expense of those acts committed by independent groups.  The document also reviews the seven countries currently listed on the State Department’s “terrorism list,” suggesting that the government might also develop an “informal watchlist” for countries – including Afghanistan, Pakistan and others – that do not qualify for the terrorism list but merit some scrutiny.

Document 2
Kenneth Katzman, Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 2001).
This CRS study, published on September 10, 2001, profiles a large number of terrorist groups and their activities as well as the subject of state-sponsored terrorism. It includes discussions of radical Islamic groups (including Al-Qaida), radical Jewish groups, leftwing and nationalist groups, other non-Islamist organizations, five nations (Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Iraq) and means of countering terrorism in the region.

    The summary begins with the observation that “Signs continue to point to a decline in state sponsorship of terrorism, as well as a rise in the scope of [the] threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Usama bin Ladin.”

Document 3
Jeffrey D. Brake, Terrorism and the Military’s Role in Domestic Crisis Management: Background and Issues for Congress (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, April 2001).
This CRS study reviews current legislation and policies that govern the military’s role in support of law enforcement in a domestic terrorism crisis and examines some of the issues confronting the executive branch and Congress. Before turning to the military role, the report examines national level and FBI crisis management structures. Discussion of the military role involvements investigation of DoD policy, possible requests for technical assistance (including disposition and transportation of a weapon of mass destruction) and requests for tactical assistance (in situations of armed conflict or a threat to public safety).
Document 4a
National Commission on Terrorism (NTC), Countering the Changing Threat of International Terrorism, June 5, 2000.
Document 4b
Raphael F. Perl, National Commission on Terrorism Report: Background and Issues for Congress (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, February 2001).
On June 5, 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism (NTC), a congressionally mandated group, issued its report, Countering the Changing Threat of International Terrorism. The report argued for a more aggressive U.S. strategy in combating terrorism – specifically, a proactive intelligence and law enforcement authority to collect intelligence about terrorist plans and methods, employing sanctions against all states that support terrorists, disrupting non-governmental sources of terrorist support, planning to respond to WMD (weapons of mass destruction) terrorist attacks, and improved integration of individual agency counterterrorism programs into a comprehensive national counterterrorism plan. The report also recommended designating Afghanistan as a state sponsor of terrorism and imposing sanctions on the regime.

    Document 4b, produced by the Congressional Research Service, notes and examines the concerns expressed by some over the possible consequences of implementing the report’s recommendations with regard to civil liberties, the relationship with U.S. allies, and U.S. trade relations. 

Document 5
Raphael Perl and Ronald O’Rourke, Terrorist Attack on USS Cole: Background and Issues for Congress, (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, January 2001).
This CRS study provides a brief background on the October 12, 2000 attack on the USS Cole and examines a number of issues confronting Congress in the aftermath of the attack, including procedures used by U.S. forces to protect against terrorist attacks, intelligence related to potential attacks, and overall U.S. anti-terrorism policy.
Document 6
Raphael E. Perl, Terrorism: U.S. Response to Bombings in Kenya and Tanzania: A New Policy Direction? (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, September 1998).
In the aftermath of the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States launched retaliatory strikes against training bases and infrastructure in Afghanistan used by groups affiliated with Usama bin Ladin as well as plant in Sudan that the U.S. charged was involved in producing a critical nerve gas component. This Congressional Research Service report asserts that the attacks represented the first time that the “U.S. had unreservedly acknowledged a preemptive military strike against a terrorist organization or network.”

    The report went on to examine whether the strikes represented a new policy direction and the issues such a policy shift would raise, including U.S preparedness for domestic and overseas attacks, possible cost in human lives, and potential restrictions on civil liberties.

III. General Accounting Office reports

Document 1
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations, September 20, 2001, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 2001).
This report, scheduled for release in September 2001 even before the attacks in New York City and Washington, provides a comprehensive summary of U.S. government efforts to prepare for and prevent terrorist attacks.

    The report evaluates the adequacy of the current counterterrorism leadership and coordination as well as efforts to conduct a "national threat and risk assessment," finding that agencies "have not completed assessments of the most likely weapon-of-mass-destruction agents and other terrorist threats." Other issues addressed by the report concern progress made in coordinating the national response to domestic terrorist incidents and risks to computer systems.

Document 2
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Opportunities to Improve Domestic Preparedness Program Focus and Efficiency, November 1998, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1998)
This document reports on progress in implementing the Domestic Preparedness Program, legislation that designated the Department of Defense (DoD) as the lead agency in preparing the nation for terrorist attacks using weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Among other things the act called upon DoD to provide training and support to federal, state and local personnel engaged in emergency response operations. The program resulted from 1996 congressional hearings that focused on efforts to better coordinate interagency counterterrorism operations. The review finds that the training and support provided to domestic response teams by the Department of Defense have generally helped prepare cities to handle terrorist attacks involving chemical or biological weapons. The report does note, however, that “the FBI and the intelligence community conclude that conventional weapons will be terrorists’ weapons of choice for the next decade.”
Document 3
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Issues to Be Resolved to Improve Counterterrorism Operations, May 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
This report, an unclassified version of an earlier classified report, discusses several issues related to the coordination of interagency counterterrorism operations, exercises and programs to assess lessons learned. Among other findings, the report concludes that agencies have not resolved several critical command and control issues, including jurisdictional issues pertaining to Department of State involvement in “highly sensitive missions to arrest suspected terrorists overseas.” The report also evaluates interagency counterterrorist exercises that have been carried out as called for in Presidential Decision Directive 39, finding that neither domestic nor international crisis exercises included scenarios of “no-warning terrorist attacks.”
Document 4
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Analysis of Federal Counterterrorist Exercises, June 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
This report provides a statistical breakdown and review of the 201 counterterrorism exercises that occurred in the three years since the signing of Presidential Decision Directive 39. The report finds that few of the exercises involved “no-notice” deployments of personnel and resources. In addition, very few of these exercises dealt simultaneously with the twin issues of crisis management—stopping the attack—and consequence management—caring for the injured. More than two-thirds of the scenarios dealt with weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the rest responding to conventional weapons and explosives.
Document 5
GAO, Combating Terrorism, Observations on Growth in Federal Programs, June 9, 1999, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999).
This report, delivered as testimony before a congressional committee, reviews federal preparations to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks in the U.S. and around the world. The bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 increased concerns about domestic terrorism, refocusing efforts that had been primarily concerned about “international terrorism and airline hijacking.” While the threat of a terrorist attack using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) weapons continues to grow, the report highlights “the very critical distinction between what is conceivable or possible and what is likely in terms of the threat of terrorist attack,” noting that conventional explosives and weapons remain the most likely terrorist threat facing the U.S.
Document 6
GAO, Combating Terrorism: Linking Threats to Strategies and Resources, July 26, 2000, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office, 2000).
In this testimony delivered before a congressional committee, the GAO reviews its efforts to help the U.S. agencies involved with counterterrorism strategy prioritize and focus their resources. Based upon a review of classified intelligence reports, the GAO warns that public statements by U.S. government officials—including, on at least one occasion, the Director of Central Intelligence—often exaggerate the threat from CBRN weapons and “do not include important qualifications to the information they present.” Statements that highlight the relative ease with which terrorists can acquire and deliver CBRN weapons are not necessarily accurate and may have significant ramifications in terms of how counterterrorism resources are allocated. The GAO review notes that “terrorists would have to overcome significant technical and operational challenges” to successfully employ such weapons. The report recommends that the government improve its threat and risk assessment procedures to insure that counterterrorism resources are allocated based on “credible threats” rather than “vulnerabilities” and worst-case scenarios.

IV. Department of Defense Directives, Instructions and statements

Document 1a
DoD Instruction 2000.14, DoD Combating Terrorism Program Procedures, June 15, 1994.
Document 1b
DoD Directive 2000.12, DoD Antiterrorism/Force Protection (AF/FP) Program, April 13, 1999.
Document 1c
DoD Instruction 2000.16, DoD Antiterrorism Standards, June 14, 2001.
These directives represent various aspects of DoD antiterrorism policy and activities since 1994. Document 1a specifies basic DoD policy and the responsibilities of DoD and military service officials – the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, military service secretaries, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the commanders of the Unified and Specified Commands –  for antiterrorism activities.

    Document 1b provides a more detailed description of responsibilities for those officials, as well as enumerating the responsibilities of a number of other DoD officials, such as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Document 1c, in enclosure 3, specifies DoD antiterrorism practices, assigning responsibilities to a variety of individuals and agencies – such as the Defense Intelligence Agency being charged with setting the DoD Terrorism Threat Level. 

Document 2
Statement by Brian Sheridan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, before the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities of the Committee on Armed Services, Department of Defense and Combating Terrorism, March 24, 2000. 
In his statement Sheridan focuses on the threat from terrorism, national policy on combating terrorism (including preemption and isolating states that support terrorism), DoD support and activity in combating terrorism, initiatives and projects, terrorism consequence management, as well as technology and research/development.

   In the section on counterterrorism, Sheridan notes that DoD has “a number of rapid response elements,” including specialized military units on alert, Foreign Emergency Support Teams (FEST) and support to National Special Security Events (NSSE).

V. Presidential Directives and Executive Orders

Document 1
National Security Decision Directive 30, Managing Terrorist Incidents, April 30, 1982. Secret.
The first Reagan administration directive concerning terrorism specifies which government agency will serve as the lead agency in managing terrorist incidents – the State Department for international terrorism, the Justice Department for domestic terrorism, and the Federal Aviation Administration for hijackings within the United States. It also creates and/or specifies the functions of a number of White House/executive branch groups, such as the Terrorist Incident Working Group and Interdepartmental Group on Terrorism. The directive also directs that an Exercise Committee be established to develop a multi-year exercise program.
Document 2a
Extract of NSDD 138, April 1984.
Document 2b
Office of the Press Secretary, White House, Statement by the Principal Deputy Press Secretary, April 17, 1984.
Document 2c
Office of the Press Secretary, White House, To the Congress of the United States, April 26, 1984.
Document 2d
Office of the Press Secretary, Fact Sheet: President’s Anti-Terrorism Legislation, April 26, 1984.
On April 3, 1984 President Reagan signed NSDD 138, Combatting Terrorism, which went far beyond establishing responsibilities for different agencies. The secret directive itself has never been released, but an extract prepared by the NSC staff details some provisions of the directive – including increasing intelligence collection directed against groups or states involved in terrorism as well as expanding sanctions against organizations and states which support or export terrorism.

    Documents 2b-2d represent the public side of the Reagan administration’s April 1984 counterterrorism initiative.

Document 3
NSDD 179, Task Force on Combatting Terrorism, July 19, 1985. Confidential.
NSDD 179 established a task force, to be headed by Vice President George Bush, to review and evaluate U.S.  policy and programs in the counterterrorism area. In particular, the task force was to assess national priorities assigned to combat terrorism, especially concerning intelligence responsibilities; the assignment of responsibilities after a terrorist incident; and evaluate laws and law enforcement programs concerning terrorism.
Document 4
NSDD 180, Civilian Aviation Anti-Terrorism Program, July 20, 1985.
This 1985 directive directs immediate action by the Secretary of Transportation to expand the federal air marshal program, specifying measures to be taken within 14 days, 30 days, and 60 days. The first step was to provide air marshals for flights with the most severe threat of  hijacking (based on city of origin), while the third step involved increasing the number of special agents “to provide continuing coverage at the most threatened  locations throughout the world.”

    The directive also called for specific actions with regard to assessing security effectiveness at foreign locations, research and development, foreign technical assistance, enhanced airline security training, crisis management, and coordination. 

Document 5a
NSDD 205, Acting Against Libyan Support of International Terrorism, January 8, 1986. Confidential.
Document 5b
NSDD 205 Annex, Acting Against Libyan Support of International Terrorism, January 8, 1986. Top Secret.
NSDD 205 provides an example of the Reagan administration’s reaction to state-sponsored terrorism. The directive begins by noting that the “scope and tempo of Libyan-supported terrorist activity against western targets is widening accelerating” and that Libyan supported terrorism constitute an “extraordinary threat to the national security ... of the United States.” The directive goes on to specify a number of economic sanctions, including a total ban on direct export or import trade with Libya, and the initiation of global diplomatic and public affairs campaign to isolate Libya.

    The top secret annex to NSDD 205 directs a number of military and intelligence measures directed against Libya – including deployment of a second Carrier Battle Group to the central Mediterranean and the conduct of operations in the Gulf of Sidra.

Document 6
NSDD 207, The National Program for Combatting Terrorism, January 20, 1986. Top Secret.
This directive is based on the recommendations of Vice-President Bush’s task force on combatting terrorism. In addition to stating basic policy guidelines, including a no-concessions policy, and reaffirming the situations in which various agencies become the lead agency in dealing with a terrorist incident, the directive orders implementation of a number of measures by the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, Director of Central Intelligence, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the Secretary of the Treasury.

    Measures to implemented included concluding agreements for more effective measures for apprehending, extraditing, and prosecuting terrorists; prepare legislation to make murder of a U.S. citizens abroad a federal crime, expand terrorism intelligence exchanges with foreign governments and the international terrorist informant program, and review the Freedom of Information Act to determine whether “terrorist movements or organizations are abusing its provisions.”

Document 7a
Executive Order 12947 of January 23, 1995, Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process, Federal Register, Vol. 60, No. 16.
Document 7b
Executive Order 13099 of August 20, 1998, Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process, Federal Register, Vol. 63, No. 164.
The first of these two orders – issued by President Bill Clinton – blocks the assets and business transactions of a specific list of “terrorist organizations” whose actions are believed to threaten the ongoing peace negotiations in the Middle East.

    The second order was issued in 1998 following the terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and on the same day that President Clinton directed retaliatory missile strikes against suspected terrorist-related facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan. The second order amends E.O. 12947 to include Usama bin Ladin – the chief suspect in the embassy bombings – the Al-Qaida organization, and two other individuals on the list of terrorists whose assets and transactions are to be blocked. The order also drops the word “organizations” from the heading of the list, apparently because specific individuals are now targeted.

Document 8
PDD 39, U.S. Policy on Counterterrorism, June 21, 1995, Secret.
The 12-page directive, which consists of at least four parts, focuses on reducing U.S. vulnerabilities, deterring terrorism, responding to terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction. The PDD directed the FBI to expand its counterterrorism program, the Secretary of Transportation to reduce vulnerability affecting the security of airports in the U.S., the DCI to lead "an aggressive program of foreign intelligence collection, analysis, counterintelligence and covert action," and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate consequence management activities. The directive also specified that "if we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbors a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects by force may be effected without the cooperation of the host government ..."
Document 9
Document 9: Executive Order 13129 of July 4, 1999, Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions With the Taliban, Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 129.
This order blocks assets and transactions connected to the Taliban, the radical Islamic political and military movement exercising de facto control over most of Afghanistan.  The order notes that the Taliban provides safe haven in Afghanistan for Usama bin Ladin and his Al-Qaida organization “who have committed and threaten to continue acts of violence against the United States.”  The Taliban thus “constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”